tv PBS News Hour PBS February 25, 2013 6:00pm-7:00pm EST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: president obama met with the nation's governors today, and painted a gloomy picture of federal spending cuts that are set to kick in friday. good evening. i'm judy woodruff. >> suarez: and i'm ray suarez. on the newshour tonight, we get an update on the potential impact the sequester will have if the white house and congress can't work out a compromise. >> woodruff: then, margaret warner looks into the troubles looming for the catholic church ahead of electing a new pope. >> suarez: a cuba without a castro in charge? we talk with senator patrick leahy, who just returned from the island after an unsuccessful attempt to secure the release of an imprisoned american.
>> woodruff: fred de sam lazaro reports on india's push to account for hundreds of millions of its citizens by issuing government identity cards. >> we still have a large number of residents much india who don't have a birth certificate or any other form of official i.d., but now with the highly mobile and aspirational society, you need some kind of an i.d. >> suarez: we talk with reporter steven brill about his time magazine cover story on why medical bills are so high. >> woodruff: and on the daily download, christina bellantoni examines white house efforts to circumvent the press through technology. that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by:
moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> suarez: president obama and congressional republicans traded barbs today, opening the final week before the looming
sequester. but there was no outward sign of a breakthrough to prevent $85 billion in automatic spending reductions. >> these cuts do not have to happen. congress can turn them off any time with just a little bit of compromise. >> suarez: the president's appeal came as he met with the nation's governors at the white house amid growing indications that the sequester will indeed take effect. >> this town has to get past its obsession with focusing on the next election instead of the next generation. all of us are elected officials. all of us are concerned about our politics both in our own parties as well as the other parties. but at some point we have to do some governing. and certainly what we can't do is keep careening from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis. >> suarez: to reinforce the point, the administration on sunday spelled out how each state will be affected from job
losses for teachers to cuts in defense spending. after today's meeting, governors largely divided down party lines in voicing their frustration. democrats, including governor daniel maloy of connecticut tended to blame congress. >> they need to get out of that box that sits under the dome and understand that this has real implications in people's lives and they should stop playing around with it and get the job done. by the way, they should compromise to get the job done. >> suarez: while governor bobby jindal of louisiana and his fellow republicans pointed to the president. >> enough is enough. now is the time to cut spending. it can be done without jeopardizing the economy and without jeopardizing critical services. the president needs to stop campaigning, stop trying to scare the american people, stop trying to scare states. >> suarez: president obama did acknowledge today the effects of the spending cuts may not be felt immediately. but one very noticeable effect could come at the nation's airports where travelers may see major flight delays if airport
workers are furl owed. meanwhile congress returned from a week-long recess with little visible progress. democrats backed the president's plan to forestall the sequester by coupling smaller spending cuts with increases in revenue. republicans insisted they already agreed to some tax increases and cannot support any plan that raises taxes now. house speaker john boehner spoke late this afternoon. >> it's time to cut spending here in washington. instead of using our military men and women as campaign props, if the president was serious he would sit down with harry reid and begin to address our problems. the house has acted twice. we shouldn't have to act a third time before the senate begins to do their work. >> suarez: and as the deadline ticked one day closer, the president planned to visit a virginia shipyard tomorrow to highlight again how the cuts could harm the u.s. military and civilian defense workers.
>> woodruff: to help us better understand the underlying political strategy being used at the white house and on capitol hill, we turn to two journalists closely following the developments. jonathan weisman of the "new york times" covers congress, and margaret talev covers the white house for bloomberg news. we welcome you both to the newshour. margaret, to you first. for days the white house has been raising the specter of terrible things that are going to happen. slowing air travel, people being laid off their jobs. furl owes. border security. problems. now that they see the republicans aren't moving, what do they think about this approach? >> they think it's a very good political approach. they will continue to use it right up until march 1. the white house has been prepared for march 1 to come and go and nothing to happen in the sequester to take effect. a part of what they're doing is a campaign to pressure republicans to get them to act but they're campaigning to position themselves as the ones trying to get this done and
republicans as the ones standing in the way. those efforts will continue. >> you're saying they're not surprised that the republicans aren't caving? >> they are not surprised that the republicans are not caving. the time line as we can now seity merging has a lot more to do with march 27, the deadline for the resolution on the budget than march 1. >> woodruff: and so on that point, i mean, jonathan weisman, the republicans, no sign of any give between now and friday. is that correct? >> absolutely. they are not going to give. >> woodruff: and so they keep hearing this sort of daily, shall we say, list of crises that are going to happen from the white house. how are they responding to that? >> well, we're going to see legislation probably emerge tomorrow in the senate from republicans that would give... that would give the white house and the administration more latitude to administer these cuts, to mete them out. right now the $85 billion would
have to be cut program by program. if you're a program that is not exempted in the 2011 law, the budget control act, you have to take a slice. and that's why the president can go out there and say air traffic controllers are going to be hit, border patrol agents are going to be hit. the republicans would like to present legislation that says, look, the department of transportation doesn't have to cut air traffic controllers. they can cut some administrative part. some other thing that is less vital to the nation's body. and that is going to divide democrats because you already see some democrats who are willing to give that kind of latitude. but you also see republicans who do not want to give that kind of latitude because it's basically ceding authority to the white house. >> woodruff: are the parties united on this? what's the white house, what are democrats going to do if the republicans try to do that? >> there are issues that chief both sides. for the republicans it is many
of the republican house districts that will be the most affected by the sequester. nothing will happen after two or three weeks but after a month or two or three or six, areas or defense contractors, these are places where the military and other programs will be affected by the long-term effects of the sequester will take effect. there will be republicans who shorter in the game than other republicans will say, all right, come on. let's cut a deal here. and then the flip side on the democratic side, there are going to be democrats particularly in those kinds of swing districts who are going to say, okay, enough on the tax increases. we need to give a little bit more on the spending cuts. on both sides you do see the potential for the rifts. for right now it does appear to be a game of chicken in terms of how bad are the effects going to be and how quickly will they be felt? >> jonathan weisman, republican leadership, how prepared are they to deal with any division in their ranks? we know that some republicans are more comfortable with these cuts than others who believe they're perfectly fine aparnly.
>> right. we've really seen highlighted the emergence of a majority of republicans that are much more concerned with the fiscal picture and the size and scope of government, the spending side, than what we used to see which was a very large group of republicans, a majority, that were most concerned with national defense and would protect the defense budget over everything. the president expected that that national defense wing was going to ultimately prevail and stop these cuts from happening, bring their party to the table. that has not happened. i don't think the republicans in the senate may actually begin to splinter. the house is really dug in right now. they feel like they gave it the fiscal cliff. they let taxes rise. and now as one congressman told me, we've gotten to the high ground. the muskets are all pointing out. you want to come and take the hill, give it a shot. >> woodruff: does the white
house feel the republicans have the high ground here? >> the white house feels that the republicans are going to want a couple of weeks to kind of make their points and protest. at this point the white house still sees some resolution that reigns in the impact of the sequester over x period of time. >> woodruff: do they have a strategy for how this is going to spool out over the next few weeks? >> i don't know what the strategy is after march 27. if there is one no one has spelled it out me. >> woodruff: this is when the next decisions have to be made. >> from the white houses perspective, not only will the sequester effects be felt more the longer it would go on, right? but because the time overlaps so closely to this continuing budget plan, for the republica republicans, the specter of a government shutdown is a lot more politically painful, broad-based, right, congresswide for all of them than the impacts of the sequester. >> i think that that's why the march 27 deadline is probably less of a big deal than we think.
republicans in the house want to move forward beyond that. they're going to move legislation probably next week to just get past that. now the senate democrats might dig in and say, we are not going to pass legislation to keep the government functioning past march 27 unless you do something about the sequester. but from what i understand, unless there is a huge human cry out there from the american people, they're going to let that pass. they're going to also pass legislation to keep the government open. i actually don't think march 27 is going to be a big deal because i'll tell you the first furl owes, the first lay-offs we're going to see on these sequesters won't hit until april. you're not going to see really angry american voters probably until past that march 27 deadline. >> woodruff: we're all on the edge of our seats watching to see what happens. and both of you are going to be watching it with us. thank you very much, jonathan weisman, margaret talev, thank you.
>> suarez: still to come on the newshour, troubles for the holy see; cuba without a castro; india undertakes a national identification effort; health care's high costs; and the daily download. but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: wall street had one of its worst days of the year, amid new fears about instability in europe. stocks went into a late-day sell-off after reports that italy might be unable to form a new government. the dow jones industrial average lost 216 points to close at 13,784. the nasdaq fell 45 points to close at 3116. those reports of paralysis in italy followed crucial parliamentary elections. turnout was low, and a protest movement led by a comedian won nearly a quarter of the vote. as officials counted ballots, partial results showed no clear winner. instead, it appeared opposing coalitions would split control of parliament, and that prompted warnings of a stalemate. >> if a rejection, if they are
confirmed, it means that italy will not have a government. so we'll be very, very dangerous. very, very dangerous scenario. >> sreenivasan: if no party is able to form a government, there could be new elections at a time when italy is still grappling with severe financial problems. nato has found no evidence so far that u.s. special forces tortured civilians in eastern afghanistan. the coalition issued that statement today. afghan president hamid karzai ordered all u.s. special forces to leave a key region within two weeks. local officials in wardak province have blamed americans in the disappearance of at least nine men and the murder of a university student. a trial opened today in new orleans on exactly who will pay how much more in the 2010 gulf oil spill, the nation's worst offshore oil disaster. b.p. says it has already paid $24 billion in spill-related expenses. now a federal judge will decide
the liability of the oil giant and its partners, transocean and halliburton, for $20 billion in civil claims. the trial is expected to last months, but the judge has promised not to let it drag on. major new research finds that eating mediterranean-style can cut your risk of major heart problems by 30%. a study in spain, published today, touted the benefits of olive oil, nuts, fish, and vegetables. the study lasted five years and involved 7,500 people. it was by far the most detailed look at mediterranean diets. the findings were published in the "new england journal of medicine." former surgeon general c. everett koop died today in hanover, new hampshire. koop gained national notoriety in the 1980's under president reagan by endorsing condoms and sex education to stop aids, and campaigning against smoking. he spoke about his antismoking efforts on the newshour in 1989. >> i cannot work for a tobacco company. i couldn't even work on an assembly line making cigarettes. in fact, i once talked to a man
in one of the cigarette-producing cities. he said, you know, i've come to believe that even the machine that turns out those little white things is evil. i think you've got to recognize that if we suddenly ran on tobacco tomorrow as something we didn't know anything about before, there would be no doubt about the fact it would be treated the way we treat toxic wastes or other things that threaten the health of our people. >> sreenivasan: he left office in 1989, and later founded an institute at dartmouth in hanover to teach basic values and ethics to medical students. c. everett koop was 96 years old. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> woodruff: next, a big story on the big price tags attached to medical care. steven brill spent months reporting his 26,000-word cover story in the latest issue of "time" magazine looking at what's behind our country's high-cost of health care. what he found was startling: a few days of lab work that costs
more than a car; a trip to an emergency room for indigestion that totaled more than a semester in college; and many more examples. in response, the american hospital association released a statement that claimed the system is broken and that "patients may look at a hospital bill and think the prices they see only reflect the direct care they received, when in fact what's reflected are all the resources to provide the care." steven brill joins me now. >> hi, judy. how are you. >> woodruff: i'm well. let me just begin by, you paint a devastating picture of the american health care system, and you talk, of course, about a system that is based on private enter prize. the private marketplace in america. i guess my question is... >> exactly. woodruff: ... why isn't the private marketplace working? >> because the private marketplace in other aspect of our lives implies that there's
some kind of balance between the seller and the buyer. and in medicine, in health care, there is no balance. if you go into a shoe store and you see a pair of shoes and you say, well, maybe they're, you know, $200, i think i'll buy them. the guy behind the counter at the shoe store tells you that the shoes are $6,000, you can turn around and walk out. in fact, you can walk out and go up the block and go to a different shoe store. you don't have to buy the shoes. in health care not only do you have to buy it because you don't have any choice but you don't know what the price is before you buy it. when you read the statement from the american hospital association, i sort of had to chuckle because the implication there is that if they charge, as i found, $77 for a box of, you know, gauze pads, the reason they're doing that is because of all the other care in the hospital that you're getting. room and the board, the nurses and everything. but they charge for that too.
there was one hospital that was charging $1.50, as you know from the cover of the magazine, for a tylenol. and yet they were charging $1791 for the room. now you would think if you're paying $1791 for the room, they would, you know, decide to throw in the tylenol. >> woodruff: well, the hospital association and those who are defending their point of view do say that what you're paying for is just essentially to keep the hospital running. that's what patients are being charged for. but you point out... >> well (laughing) you know, yeah, it's keeping the hospital running plus an extra 11.5-12% in pure profit that goes to the nondoctor addsters at the hospital who are making a million, two million, three million, four million, six million dollars a year in salaries. >> woodruff: you also write, steven brill, about something called the charge master that
sets the price in these hospitals. you cite some extraordinary examples. i mean, we cited a couple of them earlier, tens of thousands of dollars when someone wasn't even found sick. what is a charge master? >> well, it's this thing that everybody in this alternate universe of the health care economy where everybody is making a ton of money, everybody there knows about it. it's this giant price list of every item that the hospital provides ranging from an aspirin to the paper cup that you drink the water out of when you take the aspirin to, you know, a $10,000 wonder drug for cancer. it's every single item, and the thing about the charge master is that every hospital has completely different prices. they're typically five to ten times what it cost the hospital to buy those items or provide those items. and insurance companies get big discounts off of the charge
master, but the discounts that they get are still not enough to keep these hospitals from making very high profit margins and from all the nondoctor administrators at these hospitals from making exorbitant salaries. that's just not the hospitals. it's also the drug companies. it's the lab companies. you know, it's as if we have two economies in this country. we have the economy that you and i live in, which has been hard pressed over the last, you know, half decade. you know, jobs have been scarce. we're under all kinds of pressure. then there's this other economy called the health care economy where everybody just keeps making more and more money. where unemployment is nil. and where everything is fine. yet the worst part about it is, is that that economy is bleeding our economy. >> woodruff: what is striking too, there are a number of things striking in the piece. one is that those who fall under one of the government health care plans -- medicaid and in
particular medicare -- someone get taken care of. certainly those who have insurance, who have an insurance policy, they get taken care of. and yet a lot of the discussion we hear about reform now has to do with reforming medicare. and putting it back into the or putting it into the private sector. based on what you're seeing, how would that work? >> well, medicare, first of all, is in the private sector. medicare has six or seven hundred government employees and about 8,000 employees from the private sector who do a terrific job administering the claims and running the program. medicare buys its services much more efficiently because it is the big player in the marketplace. none of the insurance companies have the leverage that medicare has. now, the irony is that the only place where medicare is not able to buy efficiently is where
congress is handcuffed medicare. medicare can't negotiate the cost of prescription drugs. it can't negotiate the cost of wheelchairs and canes and things like that. so you could knock easily another quarter of a trillion dollars out of the medicare bill, the tax payers' bill, if you took the handcuffs off of medicare. and another way ironically you could save tax payers money, believe it or not, is if you lowered the age of medicare and allowed more people in their 60s to join medicare as opposed to the obama care solution now which is they're all going to have to buy health insurance but the government is going to subsidize their much more expensive private health insurance. >> woodruff: very quickly. we have less than a minute now. i want to ask you about obama care. you just raised it. what effect do you see it having on the health care system after all your reporting? >> well, there are a lot of good aspects of it. it curbs some of the billing
collection practices. it obviously puts an umbrella over many more people who will have insurance but it really sort of nips away at the edges of the problem. the problem is the price tag that everybody is able to charge because they're basically able to gouge people because the buyers don't have any leverage. obama care really does nothing to attack that. >> woodruff: well, we are going to leave it there, steven brill. the article is in this week's "time" magazine. thank you very much. >> thanks for having me. the cuban government says gross
illegally distributed communications equipment on the island while on a u.s.-funded democracy building program. gross has claimed innocence. i'm joined now by senator patrick leahy. senator, welcome. how is alan gross? you got a chance to see him. >> he's lost an enormous amount of weight since he's been in prison. i saw him last year and saw him again this year. obviously he wants to come home. he wants to be with his family. and he feels frustrated that he's being held unnecessarily for what at best was not a significant violation. >> suarez: the status of his health is the subject of disagreement between the cuban government and his family back here in america. is he sick? >> i'm not a doctor. i can't make that decision. i would like to have an independent physician look at him. but i think the best thing would be if he could come home.
i understand his frustration. and there are a couple of positive things. one, the cubans at the highest level have agreed with me that they do not consider him a spy. that makes it easier to try to work something out. secondly, i see some glimmers of hope. but it's going to require, i think, some real work on behalf of both countries. i would hope work would be out of the spotlight. work that can be done quietly. and who knows. it may come to what i hope is the release of alan gross. >> suarez: was he adequately trained by the united states government? he was there as part of a democracy-building exercise which is not welcome and not recognized by the cuban government. was it at all a risky visit that
he was on? >> well, i think there could be a lot of debate on that. i know as a contractor who hired him, i worry that the contract was more interested in its own goals than what might be the safety of mr. gross. but i think it would probably not help him to go into great detail on to what extent he's trading or not. i agree with the cubans. he's not a spy. he's somebody who believes in helping other people. he has no animosity toward the cuban people. he suppressed that several times to me. he has no animosity toward the cuban people but he cannot understand the actions of their government. >> suarez: at this point apart from the humanitarian concern, is his continued incarceration a stumbling block, an impediment to improved u.s.-cuban relations?
>> you know, ever since the 1960 we found one stumbling block, one impediment after another. i think it's time that we start sitting down and talking about relationships between our two countries. the relationships reflect the realities of today and not the past history, sometimes the imagined history, of the '60s and the '70s. i think if we do that and look at a whole host of things i think mr. gross is better off. so long as the whole question of u.s.-cuban relationship resolves just on the question of alan gross, i don't think it helps him. i want to help him. i want to see him released. and i also, you know, he was very open. he talked with chris van holland who, of course, is congressman. i asked the cubans if i could
bring representative van holland because he knows him. and they readily agreed with that. >> suarez: since your visit to havana, president castro has announced at the end of his current temple he's going to step down from office. when you met with him last week did he give any indication that he was looking for the exit door? >> he made it very clear that he believed in the two-term limit. something he talked about befo before. >> suarez: did you get a chance to meet the man who some say might be his successor, the new vice president? >> no, i have not met him. suarez: what's your impression of the willingness of the current leadership team to continue on the path that cuba is on today? >> well, i briefed the white house since i came back on what they had to say. i mean, cuba doesn't expect to change our form of government. we don't expect to change theirs. but i think that it's an anomaly that we have the kind of
relationships or lack of relationships between our two countries. for example, the united states will allow cuban-americans to go to cuba to visit. they won't allow irish-americans or italian-americans, except by very special circumstances. you know, it makes... it certainly makes no sense in that region or to the rest of the world. i think if i were to say anything, it would be that both countries have got to be willing to sit down and quietly work out knowing we're not going to change each other's basic philosophies but we can change a great deal in the behavior of both countries. >> suarez: given those words that you just said, that we... the two countries aren't going to change each other. is it your impression that president castro wants a better relationship with the united states at this moment? >> i think he does. and i want to have our country reciprocate and try to have a
better relationship with him. >> suarez: senator patrick leahy of vermont, thanks for joining us. >> thank you. >> suarez: next, to one of the largest registration drives of all time. it's taking place in india, where authorities are mounting an effort to give every citizen an official biometric identification card and number. special correspondent fred de sam lazaro filed this story as part of our "agents for change" series. >> reporter: across india, in community centers and schools like this one in new delhi, people line up for hours. patience, like application forms they seek, is often in short supply. it seems like a big deal over a rather mundane prize: a new government-issued i.d. but the man behind it all calls this the largest social inclusion project in history.
>> we still have a large number of residents of india who don't have a birth certificate or any other form of official i.d. and in the old days, when they lived their entire life in a single village, it maybe didn't matter, but now, with the highly mobile and aspirational society, you need some kind of an i.d. >> reporter: nandan nilekani says an i.d. is the first step to better serve-- or just account for-- hundreds of millions of people in this vast nation of 1.2 billion. the government asked nilekani, a 58-year-old retired software billionaire, to head the massive undertaking. he says it will greatly improve the way it serves the poor. >> to make it more effective, efficient, and equitable. this will play a huge role in reducing corruption and harassment for the common man. the government wants to make sure that benefits go electronically and directly to the genuine beneficiary.
>> sreenivasan: the new identifications are electronic, online, and designed to be foolproof. the unique identification project, called u.i.d., goes much farther than the usual mug shot or even fingerprints. each applicant also looks into a viewfinder through which the irises of both eyes are scanned. from these so-called biometrics, an online identification is generated with a unique 12-digit number, which is delivered on a card a few weeks later by mail. people in india do have other cards that serve as i.d.'s. the majority of poor and middle- class families have ration cards that allow them to buy basic foods at subsidized prices in special ration shops. this lady has shown me the one for her family. she receives four kilos of rice, which is about ten pounds of rice. she's also eligible for cooking and heating oil, but rarely gets them. items are frequently out of
stock. corruption, mainly through diverted commodities and fake i.d., is widely blamed. the government hopes to change all this by opening and linking bank accounts with the new i.d.'s. instead of food grants, assistance would come in direct deposits, and recipients would have cash to shop in regular stores. vijay kumar, waiting to enroll for his new i.d., likes the idea. >> there are a lot of benefits from government programs, but middlemen steal from them. i don't come from a well-to-do family. there are 12 people, and many are dependent on assistance, and maybe they will be able to benefit from this card. >> reporter: just a few dozen people here in bangalore manage the avalanche of data from 30,000 enrollment centers across the country. one of the few tasks at this center that requires a human hand is here. about 2% of all applications are flagged because there appear to be similar biometrics-- like
fingerprints-- between often very different people. >> the photograph clearly says that these are two different people. >> sreenivasan: there usually is a simple explanation, says manager kiran chowbene, like a fingerprint screen with remnants of a previous impression. i can see that the screen looks pretty dirty, hasn't been wiped clean. what percentage are adjudicated successfully here? >> everything. >> reporter: every single one? >> yes. >> reporter: there are no mysteries at the end of this process? >> no. >> reporter: chowbene and almost all of the 100,000 workers on the i.d. project work for private companies contracted by the government. they are paid for each person successfully enrolled, an incentive system that's brought speed unusual for a government project. a quarter of a billion people have been signed up or scanned in in just two years. already, india's unique i.d. project has the largest biometric database in the world. it's fast becoming twice as large as the second biggest one,
which is at the u.s. department of homeland security. but there are critics concerned about privacy, who say it's all too rushed. they worry about abusive surveillance, particularly of political, ethnic, or religious minorities. social activist gopal krishna notes britain scrapped a national i.d. program in 2010 after years of debate. here, he says, the project led by nilekani has not been debated, and the government is only beginning to draft a privacy law. >> nilekani has mastered the art of putting the cart before the horse. if privacy is a concern, shouldn't a privacy bill come first, then the u.i.d. database? >> reporter: other critics say the new i.d.'s wont reduce corruption, merely create new middlemen to replace the old-- in banks instead of ration shops, for example. usha ramanathan, a lawyer and human rights activist, is also skeptical about the program's stated objective.
>> the agenda is not in providing identity to the poor so that the poor can get everything and become un-poor. i need to be really gullible to believe that. and i'm not that. >> reporter: she says the real agenda is to privatize poverty and welfare programs for all but the very poorest people, who would remain in the public distribution system. right now the system protects all recipients from the worst effects of market swings and escalating food costs. >> there is a desire to do a certain kind of social sorting where the state will identify people that they cannot deliver things to. you just have to do it because they are so extremely poor. you don't want an image of yourself where people are dying of starvation. >> sreenivasan: nilekani says he has no problem with market-based reforms, which will empower many
people to assert their rights as citizens and consumers. he insists the universal id database is secure, that privacy can be safeguarded. that said, nilekani adds the very nature of privacy is being redefined. >> i think the privacy and convenience are opposites. it's always a trade-off. when you go and buy things at an e-commerce site, that e-commerce organization knows exactly what you're buying. so, you know, it works both ways. >> reporter: the i.d. project may well be subjected to court challenges. it will likely be debated as it comes up for renewal in 2014. by then, the program, at an officially estimated cost of $3.5 billion, expects to have enrolled 600 million people-- half of all indians and a tenth of all humanity. >> suarez: fred's reporting is a partnership with the under-told stories project at saint mary's university in minnesota.
woodruff: karen jenkins of independent television news has the story. >> reporter: just days before the pope abdicates the u.k.'s top catholic claire i can announces he's standing aside too. he leaves with immediate effect. and leaves the catholic church once more facing difficult questions. his resignation follows allegations in a national newspaper. he's accused of inappropriate behavior towards four priests dating back to the 1980s. allegations he denies. the only activity here at the cardinal's residence today is the gaggle of cameraman waiting for him to come outside. it's hardly surprising he's keeping a low profile. this resignation is designed to take him out of the media spotlight before the election of a new pope in just a few weeks' time. now the u.k. will have no say in choosing pope benedict's successor. it was to be one of cardinal o'brien's last official duties before a scheduled retirement
next month. but in a statement he said... >> the holy father has now decided that my resignation will take effect today. looking back over my years of ministry for any good i have been able to do, i thank god. for any failures, i apologize to all whom i have offended. >> reporter: he does, however, remain a cardinal. it's understood he could still take part in the election of a new pope and it's his choice not to do so. in scotland cardinal o'brien is a divisive figure though many are sad to see him go. >> no one would have wished these circumstances. everyone will feel great sadness for what's arisen today. i feel that we should reflect for a minute just on the massive contribution that he has made to his church and his country over almost 50 years. >> reporter: others found him difficult not least for his uncompromising opposition to gay marriage. >> what we really hope in
scottland is that the cardinal's successor will show more christiane charity to openly gay people than the cardinal was able to do himself. >> reporter: by the end of this week the catholic church will have vacancies not only for pope but for the top job in the u.k. too. >> woodruff: there were other reports of scandal rocking the vatican over the weekend as popen winnipeg ticket prepares to leave office later in the week. margaret warner has more on the latest from rome. >> warner: unsourced stories in the italian media in recent days have alleged sexual and financial impropriety including corruption, favoritism and the attempted blackmail of gay vatican clergy at the highest levels of the church. in response the vatican released a statement saturday attacking the press accounts as an attempt to influence the election of the new pope. stating it is deplorable that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.
today pope benedict met with three cardinals he had named to run a secret investigation into a cache of leaked vatican documents last year. the new media allegations are said to be based on their findings. it was announced today that their findings will remain sealed shown only to the new pontiff but not to the cardinal set to gather to select him. jason horowitz of the "washington post" is covering these latest developments and joins us from the vatican. jason, welcome. this has been several days of real turmoil at and involving the vatican. what sort of shadow is it casting over the preparations to gather to select a new pope? >> i think i would say it's casting a pretty long shadow. there's really a feeling of chaos and confusion here. already the resignation of the pope kind of set things in tilt that people weren't used to th this. the first time in about 600 years. but the fact that it's been followed by revelation or at
least, you know, apparent revelation of scandal after scandal hasn't helped matters for the vatican at all. >> warner: and what drove the vatican to issue this very public denunciation of these media reports? i mean, in other words, how damaging do they think those reports are potentially to the vatican? >> that's a very good question. and i guess that the vatican thought they were very damaging. but i wonder a little bit if they were thinking a little too much with their italian minds and not enough with their kind of global church minds because a lot of people especially american journalists, you know, we were being very cautious about those allegations in the italian press because they were extremely thinly sourced. the idea that this reporter had seen this document when really it seemed to be only these three cardinals and the pope seem
almost far fetched and the accusations were so heavy that you notice that a lot of the american and really international press kind of laid off. it was only when the vatican released that very strong statement calling the reports unverifiable that it kind of forced international journalists to kind of pay attention. and so i wonder if it backfired on them a little bit. >> what if the bigger picture here? what is the bigger picture here? in other words, you have leaks and counterleaks and accusations and counteraccusations. is this just about a struggle for power over getting, you know, who is going to be the new pope or is there a larger thread here? i mean, are there different camps that represent different perspectives on how the church should be managed going forward or indeed where the church should go moving forward? >> i think that the answer to both is yes. i mean, you do have camps within the church that, you know, for
whom different things are important. you have certain prelates who care a lot about reaching out to the southern hemisphere. you have others who want to clean up the korea which is the bureaucracy that runs the church. the bigger picture i think is that you're seeing a church that especially here in the vatican where there's really large management problems. and the powerplays that we're seeing in there are probably spilling out into the press is what we're seeing a little bit. they are reflective of a place where there's not a lot of stability. and the fact that the pope resigned shocked everyone. all that instability is coming out to the foreright now. it's coming out to the fore, spilling out in press reports. then, of course, you look north and you look to britain. and you have cardinal o'brien who is now, you know, facing really serious accusations and it seems like almost not welcome to the conclave.
it marks a very large change and shift for the vatican that if you look back even just eight years ago they were willing to embrace these cardinals that were, you know,en snared in these scandals. and now they're not so willing to do that. >> warner: will this have any bearing on the american cardinal roger mahoney who has been accused of shielding pedophile priests back in the '80s, stripped of his duties. lay groups are calling on him not to go to the conclave but he says he's going to. >> right. well, i think that the interesting thing there is that what we're seeing with o'brien is the reaction from the vatican. again, if you remember back to cardinal law who was embattled. to say the least with the sex scandals and the priestly abuse. and yet the vatican circled the wagons around him. this time it seems like these
cardinals are finding themselves under the wheels of that wagon. they don't seem very eager to have owe bien here. i wonder if they're so eager to have ma moany here either. i mean they're not going to say don't come. it's the right of the cardinal to come. but it brings a distraction. >> warner: briefly before we go, thursday is the pope's last day. friday this process in some fashion begins. what does happen next? >> well, what happens next is that the cardinals start meeting with one another starting on march 1. in fact today the pope kind of made an amendment to the constitution, if you will, of the vatican saying that the cardinals will establish and meet and establish the date of the conclave. on march 1 they'll start meeting decide when the conclave is. really what you're going to have even though they're not supposed to is a bunch of cardinals talking to one another figuring out what issues are important, who are the likely candidates,
who they think is the guy to bring them forward in this century. so we're going to have basically, what you're going to see is a lot of coffee and cappuccino being drunk by the cardinals and a lot of talking about the future. >> warner: you'll be there to cover it. jason horowitz, the "washington post." thank you. >> thank you. suarez: next to our series about the digital world's cultural impact. newshour political editor christina bellantoni is here with the daily download team. >> ordinary citizens have more opportunities to talk directly to the president these days. joining us to discuss how the white house is using the internet to work around the press are two journalists from the website daily download. lauren ashburn is the site's editor in chief. howard kurtz is the host of cnn's reliable sources. thanks for being here. we're talking about the president hosting a google hangout on google-plus. this seems designed initially to talk to relatives and far away
places. how did it become a political tool? what does the president really accomplish here? >> i think the president is accomplishing reaching around the press corps to actually talk to voters and voters who may not answer or ask questions that the regular press would. >> like any technology, it might start out with me chatting with you but companies and politicians now trying to harness this because it plugs them into a demographic that may not watch a lot of television, that may not read newspapers, for example, but relishes the chance even though do people get that chance to ask a question directly to the president of the united states. >> you have to understand that this has only been around for 18 months. the first time that the president did this, he received 135,000 questions. so that would mean that it was a popular way of reaching out. was something that was really welcomed. >> reporter: this time only thousands of questions according to google which won't provide
the exact figure. you get a bounce from that because people can see it later on all kinds much websites and perhaps even in television coverage. >> so that's more than 7500 questions came through this google hangout. they got votes from more than 100,000 people or nearly 100,000. what are the types of things that people are asking in these hangouts? >> most of the questions what are what we journalists would call softball like why don't you make computer courses required in college. every once in a while somebody will ask a question that a journalist wouldn't ask and ask it in a more opinionated way than a journalist would. >> if you remember clearly in 2008 you ran on a platform of really trying to become one of the most transparent administrations in american history. however, with recent leaked guidelines regarding drone strikes on american citizens and benghazi and closed-door hearings on the budget and
deficit, it just feels a lot less transparent than i think we had all hoped it would be. how has the reality of the presidency changed that promise? and what can we do moving forward to kind of get back to that promise? >> well actually on a whole bunch of fronts we've kept that promise. this is the most transparent administration in history. >> they do google hangouts. we moo know that. tell us about this woman who asked this question. what was she trying to get at there? >> she's a video blogger and is trying to find out when... from the president why she doesn't know everything there is to know about our drone program. this was her way of trying to pin him down. >> you know, white house official tells me these google chats or facebook town halls or twitter town halls which obama hassles participated in, that they are not an attempt to go around the mainstream press but it is certainly a way to circumvent the press room and to
speak directly to voters like that. she couldn't follow up. she didn't have all the details that a reporter would have. but she pinned him down. >> she did but as other reporters have said, reporters do this on a daily basis. they know the in's and out's of the white house. they know the in's and out's of policy and can ask more nuanced questions. i think that while her question was pointed, he was able to circumvent it. >> because there weren't enough specifics in there in the way that the reporter may have framed the very same topic. >> vice president biden he did actually google hangout with our own hari sreenivasan on the gun issue but recently did a facebook chat. he had a kind of interesting reaction to some of the questions there. >> he thought they weren't supposed to be coming from a parents' magazine sponsored chat. >> the vice president i think it's fair to say bristled at the pointed nature of questions from people who believe in what they would call gun rights. it led to a long animate rather
aggressive response from vice president biden in which he said that, you know, you don't need assault weapons. as i told my wife jill just get a shotgun. a couple of blasts from that and you'll scare everybody off. that was replayed on television everywhere because the vice president was so vociferous about it. >> while the google hangout may not have the millions and millions of viewers that traditional television might have on the state of the union night, it does act as a megaphone because then it drives the conversation for every blogger, for every correspondent, for every website out there. >> looking at this, you know, f.d.r. was sort of the example of these radio chats. the first one got 5 million. as many as 54 million heard the height of them. now how many people are actually watching after the fact when it's clipped on you-tube? the white house is using to spread their own message. >> it's hard to measure. clearly it is a fraction of what franklin roosevelt did using the mass medium of the day. if obama wants to reach the most
americans that he can, he'll go on television and use that bully pulpit. this is narrow casting to people who might not ordinarily be viewers of the evening news. and a way to communicate directly with folks without having to go through the press. >> when i give speeches about social media, the one thing that i say is that this is a way to reach an audience, to reach other people that you wouldn't normally reach. >> we'll leave it there. thank you very much. we'd like your thoughts on the evolution of white house communication. can you watch the google hangout? what would you ask the president if you a chance? weigh in at newshour dot pbs dot org. >> suarez: again, the major developments of the day. president obama and congressional republicans traded new barbs, with automatic spending cuts set to begin this friday. wall street had one of its worst days of the year, amid signs that elections in italy produced no clear winner. the dow industrials fell 216 points.
the surgeon general of the united states, c. everett koop died at 96. >> woodruff: online, we learn about one mans "cerebral" contribution to sceince. hari sreenivasan has more. >> sreenivasan: when doctors in 1953 removed a portion brain from the man known as "h.m.," they began what would become a half-century study into how human memory works. read about those discoveries on our science page. and on making sense, why raising the payroll tax ceiling must occur to help fix social security. and tonight on independent lens, a look into the world of one of the most outspoken artists of our time. "ai wei-wei: never sorry" airs at 10:00 p.m. on most pbs stations, check your local listing. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. ray? >> suarez: and that's the newshour for tonight. on tuesday, we'll talk to gloria steinem, and look at the arguments before the supreme court over the collection of d.n.a. evidence. i'm ray suarez. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night. >> major funding for the pbs
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